This weekend is the beginning of what is set to be a decisive week for teachers across the country, as they go to the polls to vote on whether to have a national strike.
As both the trade unions and government deploy their best tactics to convince teachers to accept their terms – with the union engaging teachers in polls and government holding public meetings to explain their position – it is best for both parties to hold paramount the welfare of all learners in the country.
This is not to say which party is correct in its stance. However, so far there has been very limited articulation on either side of how learners’ interests would be cared for, at a crucial time when learners are preparing for their final examinations.
Hence, what comes to mind is the question of whether provisions have been made to ensure that whatever extra classes needed by learners remain in place.
The two parties should bear this in mind as they now negotiate on the hours allowed for voting. Teachers should be granted sufficient time to vote, and to also continue attending to whatever teaching responsibilities expected of them, as teachers, during the voting period. Equally, teachers should not forget their responsibilities to learners as they embark on the fight for what they believe are decent wages and remunerations.
Granted, the very few months or weeks ahead of the final examination would not do miracles for a teacher or learner who has not prepared earlier in the year. But this should not be the reason to deprive learners of whatever little learning assistance is required in these coming months or weeks of preparation for their examinations.
Not to compare situations but to rather point out an interesting fact, that like Namibian teachers, teachers in the United Kingdom too went on a strike after undertaking a vote on whether or not to strike. That strike, which took place in July this year, closed thousands of schools in England and Wales. Teachers there were demanding increased government school funding, better terms and conditions of employment, among other incentives.
Of course, the Namibian teachers, under Namibia National Teachers’ Union (Nantu) and Teachers Union of Namibia, rejected the government wage increment offer saying it is an insult, as they deemed the amount too little.
Teachers initially demanded a 12 percent increase across the board but for the 2016/2017 financial year government offered a 10 percent increment for grades 15 to 13, five percent for grades 12 to five and four percent for grades four to one A.
Hence, they are now voting on whether to embark on a countrywide strike. The final voting results would only be made public on Monday, September 19.